China and Tokagowa Japan

By: Christina Davidson

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The Opium War

The Opium Wars 1839–42 and 1856–60, two wars between China and Western countries. The first was between Great Britain and China. Early in the 19th cent., British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain. In 1839, China enforced its prohibitions on the importation of opium by destroying at Guangzhou (Canton) a large quantity of opium confiscated from British merchants. Great Britain, which had been looking to end China's restrictions on foreign trade, responded by sending gunboats to attack several Chinese coastal cities. China, unable to withstand modern arms, was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) and the British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (1843).
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Reforms for the Qing rulers

This approach came to be known as "self strengthening;" its principle goal was to maintain the strong essence of Chinese civilization while adding superior technology from abroad. The construction of modern coal mines and railroads followed. But for many reasons these projects did not succeed: many of them were not central to the state's concerns, scholars were still bound by the traditional examination system based on the Confucian classics, and growing foreign imperialism was taxing China's economy and society as much as its military. The reform program designed by the scholars Kang Youwei (1858-1927), Liang Qichao (1873-1929), and Tan Sitong (1865-1898) had a brief trial in the so-called "Hundred Days of Reform" of 1898, but it was not until after the Boxer Rebellion defeat in 1900 that wide-ranging reforms in education, military, economics and government were actually implemented.

The reform program after 1901 did begin to address structural reforms, with changes in and the eventual abolition of the examination system, the establishment of more schools throughout the country which were to include Western subjects, support for student study abroad, the establishment of a new national army under a new army ministry, along with a new ministry of commerce, reform of the currency, and the promulgation of a commercial code. In spite of these changes and perhaps because of them, the dynasty collapsed in 1911.

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Tokagowa Decline

The Tokugawa did not eventually collapse simply because of intrinsic failures. Foreign intrusions helped to precipitate a complex political struggle between the bakufu and a coalition of its critics. The continuity of the anti-bakufu movement in the mid-nineteenth century would finally bring down the Tokugawa. From the outset, the Tokugawa attempted to restrict families' accumulation of wealth and fostered a "back to the soil" policy, in which the farmer, the ultimate producer, was the ideal person in society. Despite these efforts to restrict wealth, and partly because of the extraordinary period of peace, the standard of living for urban and rural dwellers alike grew significantly during the Tokugawa period.

Meiji Restoration

When the Meiji emperor was restored as head of Japan in 1868, the nation was a militarily weak country, was primarily agricultural, and had little technological development. It was controlled by hundreds of semi-independent feudal lords. The Western powers — Europe and the United States — had forced Japan to sign treaties that limited its control over its own foreign trade and required that crimes concerning foreigners in Japan be tried not in Japanese but in Western courts. When the Meiji period ended, with the death of the emperor in 1912, Japan had…

· a highly centralized, bureaucratic government;
· a constitution establishing an elected parliament;
· a well-developed transport and communication system;
· a highly educated population free of feudal class restrictions;
· an established and rapidly growing industrial sector based on the latest technology; and
· a powerful army and navy.